Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga

Set in Uganda during the pre-colonial and current time, is the story of a family with a curse at the centre of it. Kintu is rich in history and folktale of the Buganda people. This story reminded me of how we have so many stories told to us orally but are not written, hence very few pre-colonial stories from Kenya. The folktale and the pre-colonial life of the Baganda people are well told in this book. I haven’t read any such book from Kenya except for a few are set in the colonial and post-colonial times.

The Kintu family is a huge one and it was hard for me to keep up with the many characters and their journey through time. What kept me on track was the dates that were leading up to the family reunion and the distinct events through time.

Kintu touched on some heavy themes from family, generational curses, incest, same-sex relationships, twins and their relationship to African culture, mental illness, bareness and leadership. A theme that stood out for me was family and how the Kintu family approached it.

To quote a section in the book:

“It was interesting to listen to relatives talk about their mental disorders or other problems with pride as if it was a badge confirming Kintu as their ancestor”

Certain aspects of their lives gave the members of the Kintu family a sense of belonging.

What I loved about this book was the story of pre-colonial Uganda. It was interesting to learn about the old Buganda Kingdom and the roles of the royal people including the queen mother. The richness in depth showed the result of well-done research on the history of and written in a way that did not bore me.  What I did not appreciate about the book was the many characters, it was hard to keep up. The point of the author presumably was to bring the family together in the end.

In the introduction of the book, a comparison is made between this book and Chinua Achebe’s novels which I agree that because Kintu comprehensively outlines the Buganda Kingdom. The book was sectioned into books to enable the reader see how the curse affected each generation.

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